Featured matchup at the Charlotte Road Course: William Byron vs. William Byron

CONCORD, N.C. — As the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs nears conclusion on Sunday, NASCAR William Byron is less concerned about the opponents he sees on the race track than the driver he sees in the mirror.

“It‘s definitely us against ourselves,” said Byron, who leads the series with six victories, the most recent of which—at Texas Motor Speedway—has propelled him into the Playoffs‘ Round of 8.

“I feel like it‘s us executing races. It‘s us putting together good performances… top five performances that we know that we‘re capable of.”

The Texas win allows Byron to concentrate on trying to maintain momentum in Sunday‘s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (2 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“For us, it‘s definitely going to be less stress,” said Byron, who will start 14th in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. “But once we get to the race track, we‘re trying to win the race, so it‘ll be stressful because of that.

“Qualifying here is tough because you can lock up tires and miss corners. There‘s a lot of shifting, so it‘s tough to get it all right. I feel like you can hit 90 percent of the track right and miss 10 percent, and that can be worth two or three-tenths (of a second).

“Last year, I looked at my qualifying, and I qualified second here. I just missed a little bit in (Turns) 7, 8 and 9, the back chicane, and that was worth two-and-a-half tenths. Had a great lap going up until that point. It‘s definitely a tough place.”

Kevin Harvick isn‘t shedding tears as final season nears its end

With a clear vision of his future in the racing industry, Kevin Harvick isn‘t overcome with nostalgia as he visits each of the NASCAR Cup Series tracks for the last time as a driver.

Harvick, 47, who represents drivers and athletes from other sports on the management side, will move into the FOX Sports television booth as an analyst next season. Hence, his attitude toward his final season as a competitor isn‘t that of a tearful departure.

“I‘m excited for it to be over,” Harvick said before Saturday‘s Cup practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I think, as I go to each race track, it‘s fun to be able to celebrate and do the things that you need to do, and I‘m enjoying the time that I have with the guys and seeing and hearing what they‘re going to do next and how things are going to shake out.

“For me, what‘s it‘s about is enjoying each week for different reasons, and we‘re going to be heavily involved in the sport and the industry for a long time to come with several different aspects of it, so you try to take the driving thing and do what you‘ve done for the last however many years — 22 years at the Cup level — and enjoy that part of it, but I think in my mind there‘s just a tremendous amount of stuff that‘s already happening for what we do going forward.

“But I‘m not crying myself to sleep.”

Ernie Elliott honored with prestigious Smokey Yunick Award

Championship engine builder Ernie Elliott, an integral part of the career of his NASCAR Hall of Fame brother Bill Elliott, is the recipient of this year‘s Smokey Yunick Award, bestowed annually by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Created in 1997 to honor one of stock car racing‘s legendary mechanics, the Smokey Yunick Award recognizes an individual from humble beginnings who has demonstrated exceptional innovation and made a major impact on the world of motorsports.

Chase Elliott, 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion, accepted the award Saturday on behalf of his uncle.

“I‘ve seen and talked to Uncle Ernie quite a lot,” Chase Elliott said. “He‘s always a good person to talk to post-race. He pays a lot of attention… he doesn‘t like to admit he pays a lot of attention, but he does.

“He‘s been a great supporter of mine over the years. I have a ton of respect for him—just the innovation that he brought at the time period that he did. He was so far ahead of the curve in so many different ways, not only building engines and working on the cars…

“Back then, they didn‘t have engineering and software to go through these things. A lot of it was trial-and error… he just did it his way.”

Driving cars powered by Ernie Elliott‘s engines, Bill Elliott won the Winston Million in 1985 and the Cup championship in 1988, seven years before Chase was born.

— NASCAR Wire Service —

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